Ant season is coming! So, what can you do to stop ants from invading your beehive? If ants are a problem in your area, read on to find out the best strategies for keeping them out of your hives.
In coastal California ants can be a real challenge. We have an invasive species of ant originally from Argentina which has grown out of control. This Argentine ant has actually spread all over the world. In their natural environment, ants from different families go to war with one another, which keeps their populations in check, but scientists have confirmed that the Argentine ant has formed intercontinental mega-colonies. This means that the ants (found in the U.S., Europe and Japan) are so closely related, that they interpret each other as being from the same colony and will not fight with each other. The enormity of these colonies allows them to easily outcompete native species and has made them one of the most damaging ecological invasive species around.
If ants are a problem in your area, all you can do is stay vigilant and approach the problem from as many angles as possible. Its important to know when your bees are most vulnerable too. Large, strong colonies have the resources to keep ants out, but weakened colonies can become overwhelmed by them. If you are nurturing a recently caught swarm or a new package of bees, you have to be on guard: in our experience, bees will often abscond because of an ant invasion. Sometimes an ant invasion can be a sign that your previously strong colony has weakened. A strong colony can unexpectedly crash and find itself once again susceptible. For this reason, its best to have always have any protection in place.
Heres what we do at Girl Next Door Honey to keep bees protected.
Place your hives on stands with legs.
You may see photos of hives on cinderblocks or just plopped on the ground, but if you want to properly protect your bees from ants, you need to put them on stands with actual legs. There are various methods for protecting from ants, but most of them involve fortifying the legs of your hive stand. If you are using a Langstroth or a Warre hive, remember that the hive is going to grow vertically over time, so dont make your stand too tall! Four to Five inch legs are sufficient for ant protection and will make lifting those top boxes much easier when your colony expands. You should also consider the thickness of your stand legs. Of course, you want something sturdy to support the weight of your hive, but bulky legs, like the ones on this stand, make ant control more challenging, while the slender legs of this stand, will be much easier to monitor and keep secure.
Image courtesy of beekeepinglikeagirl.com